SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– A new scam involving potential rental properties could cost you thousands of dollars.
“We have had hundreds of reports of these nationally every year for the past five years,” said Stephanie Garland, Better Business Bureau regional director. “We’ve had several reports recently in the Springfield area.”
The scam tricks desperate renters into giving up potentially thousands of dollars as down payment.
“Rentals are harder to come by, ” said Kellie Revoir, a realtor with the Revoir Team. “So, you have desperate people that are so desperate to find a house and to find a rental property and they think they’ve finally found this golden gem that’s been tucked away in Craigslist or tucked away in the Facebook marketplace. Over just the last two weeks, I’ve seen five different ones.”
According to Revoir, scammers will take photos of a house that’s for sale and list it as a rental on the internet. Scammers will take the down payment without giving them the keys.
“It seems to come around when we’re in an economic climate where people might have extra money,” said Bud Jones, Greater Springfield Board of Realtors President.
“Right now is a really hot housing market, as we all know,” said Garland. “Houses are going up for sale on a Friday and they’re being sold and having offers accept on a Sunday.”
Property owners and potential renters are both victims of this type of scam. Jones says future renters can protect themselves from falling victim to one of these scams by calling the office to check if a realtor is licensed.
“That takes about 10 seconds to verify,” said Jones. “Once they have found out they’re a victim, there’s not much they can do. They feel like they’re helpless. It only takes a picture and a post and someone who is desperate to find a home.”
“If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” said Garland.
“You need to be able to shake somebody’s hand and walk through the house with them before you send them any kind of money,” said Revoir. “Sellers should know if their house is listed for rent because if a house is occupied and there are people peering into your windows, it’s quite terrifying.”
“Whenever you’re selling a home, you need to go ahead and do a reverse good image search, and then you can look up and see what other sites have your photo there,” said Garland.
Unfortunately, Revoir says there isn’t a solution to the problem yet.
“We have no way to track it, we have no way to stop it.,” said Revoir. “As real estate agents, we just don’t have the resources to go out there and search these sites every single day.”
The Greater Springfield Board of Realtors suggests sellers go through a management company to minimize the risk of your home being used to scam potential renters.